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Letters — From the May 2017 issue

Letters

Turning Blue

Andrew Cockburn argues that the current crop of elected officials in Texas are right-wing extremists and that the state’s citizens — minorities and the poor in particular — are under assault by their government [“Texas is the Future,” Letter from Washington, March]. Out-of-state visitors with similar views often ask me why Texans don’t fight back, especially given the state’s massive urban centers and large, growing minority population. I usually shrug and tell them that, for the most part, Texans have the government they want.

Even black and Latino Texans share in the conservative culture of the Lone Star State. In February, 31 percent of black voters said they had a favorable view of the state government, and, last October, a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll found that 35 percent of Latino voters supported the immediate deportation of undocumented immigrants. It’s an inconvenient truth for those looking to predict a transition from red to purple to blue.

Democrats do need to grow the Texas electorate if they are to become competitive again, but there’s no reason to believe that Texans who have voted inconsistently or not at all — particularly Latinos — will vote uniformly for Democrats when they decide to turn out at higher rates.

Joshua Blank
Manager of Polling and Research, Texas Politics Project
Austin, Tex.

Andrew Cockburn responds:

Texas Republicans evidently do not share Dr. Blank’s faith in the permanent dominance of conservative political culture in their state. How else can we explain their ongoing campaign to prevent Latinos and African Americans from voting? Among their concerns may be that elderly whites, their most reliable bloc of voters, are drawing perilously close to the cemetery.

Latinos and African Americans in Texas vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, as they do everywhere else. Only because so many voters of color fail to turn up at the polls (in 2014, nearly 1 million in Harris County alone) do politicians in Texas appease the eccentric desires of Republican primary voters. It’s true that roughly a third of the state’s regular Latino voters vote Republican, but more than two thirds of Latinos do not vote, or vote very infrequently. So we are talking about a Republican sliver that represents 30 percent of 30 percent.

A mobilized electorate will deliver results that are at odds with the supposedly dominant political culture in Texas, as my article describes. On average, 75 percent of voters in Harris County’s Latino-majority precincts supported the Democratic ticket in November. Among first-time and infrequent voters, that number was even higher. Even if a minority of Latinos tell pollsters that they favor deporting the undocumented, it strains credulity that the explicitly anti-immigrant, anti-Latino agenda promoted by Donald Trump and Governor Greg Abbott will not create a serious electoral backlash. Texas Republicans might recall what happened to their once-powerful brethren in California when they turned on immigrants in the 1990s. They swiftly found themselves living in a one-party blue state.

Party Foul

Rebecca Solnit describes the G.O.P. as a party of and for white men, and its members as racists determined to “dismantle” democracy [“Tyranny of the Minority,” Easy Chair, March]. She might want to recall that it was the Democratic — not Republican — Convention that, in 1964, barred black representatives of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party from the floor.

I’m an independent, Democratic-leaning voter, and I am distressed by the Trump presidency. But it is unfair to label all Republicans as racists bent on turning the country into the Confederacy. Take Nikki Haley, a woman of Indian descent, who brought down the Confederate flag at the State House in Columbia, South Carolina — is her political goal to keep white men in power?

My father is a lifelong Republican, who spent his career in human relations at a unionized company trying to bring more women and minorities into the construction trades. He has dementia and is no longer able to read Harper’s. Had Solnit written a more nuanced article, I would read it to him.

Jeff Rasley
Indianapolis

Family Emergency

According to Masha Gessen, the World Congress of Families claims that the family is “the foundation of human civilization,” but surely it’s the other way around: civilization is the foundation of the family [“Family Values,” Report, March]. Throughout history there have been other arrangements that function as the basic unit in society, including polyamory, matriarchal groups, and extended families.

What is most painful is that such hatred of human beings is being spread by religious institutions that purport to stand for love and caring. Pandering to those interest groups, President Trump has recently decided that American foreign aid cannot benefit any organization that offers contraceptives or family planning advice. This will lead to suffering and death for thousands of women, but it will never end abortion.

If religious groups were really interested in helping families, they would agitate against wars that kill living, breathing children and their parents, and for social programs that give hope to so many.

Doris Wrench Eisler
St. Albert, Alberta

Corrections

Because of an editing error, “Lessons from the Last Fight” [Sarah Schulman, Forum, February] misstated the number of people who have died from AIDS in the United States. It is 675,000, not 75,000.

The March Findings misstated the day on which judges sentence more harshly. It is the day after daylight savings time begins, not the day of.

We regret the errors.

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